Implicit bias or the Invisible Enemy in Education

Imagine believing in one thing, but your brain being uncooperative and believing a completely opposite thing whithout you even realising it. Changing that belief would be like fighting an invisible enemy insede of your own head. But this is something that actually happens when you think about implicit biases.

Greenwald and Krieger (2006) describe implicit bias as “unconscious mental processes that has substantial bearing on discrimination” (p. 946). This means that sometimes, despite consciously believing in the right thing, people may exhibit discriminatory practices, such as more severe punishments for African-American students for misconduct (Staats, 2014).  The concept is explained in a more detailed manner by Staats (2016), showing the division between the Explicit/Implicit cognition as two separate systems which can differ within a single individual.

There is a growing body of research on the topic of implicit bias, and some scientists are looking into the possible influence of such bias on educational outcomes of certain groups of students. A system of measuring implicit biases has been devised, called the Implicit Associations Test or IAT, which draws upon your “response latency (i.e., reaction time)” (Staats, 2016, p. 35) to certain visual cues or, in other words, the relative speed of your responses to several tasks (Greenwald & Krieger, 2006). There are various IAT types such as Race (Black-White, Native American, Asian American, Skin-tone), Disability, Sexuality, Religion, Weight, Gender, Age, etc. (Project Implicit, 2011). But the ones most researched in connection with education are Race (Staats, 2016), Weight (Lynagh, Cliff, & Morgan, 2015), Gender (Jackson, Hillard, & Schneider, 2013).

To improve the quality of education overall, the influence of implicit biases needs to be taken into account and tackled in future teachers’ training. As Staats (2014) emphasizes “raising awareness of the existence of unconscious biases is a vital first step of working toward their negation” (p. 1). This shows the need to raise awareness of educators on this issue.

As our brains are the most powerful tools at our disposal, I believe that it is better to use them to achieve mutual cooperation between our explicit beliefs and the implicit beliefs held by our cognition.

Картинки по запросу implicit bias


Greenwald, A. G., & Krieger, L. H. (2017). Implicit bias: Scientific foundations. California Law Review, 94(4), 945–967.

Jackson, S. M., Hillard, A. L., & Schneider, T. R. (2014). Using implicit bias training to improve attitudes toward women in STEM. Social Psychology of Education, 17(3), 419–438.

Lynagh, M., Cliff, K., & Morgan, P. J. (2015). Attitudes and beliefs of nonspecialist and specialist trainee health and physical education teachers toward obese children: Evidence for “Anti-Fat” bias. Journal of School Health, 85(9), 595–603.

Project Implicit. (2011). Retrieved from

Staats, C. (2016). Understanding implicit bias. Education Digest, 82(1), 29–38. Retrieved from

Staats, C. (2014). Federal Government Recognizes the Role of Implicit Bias in School Discipline Disparities. Kirwan Institute Analysis. Retrieved from

Picture credit: Implicit bias illustrated: “Our Kind of People” by Bayeté Ross Smith 


7 thoughts on “Implicit bias or the Invisible Enemy in Education

  1. Dear Soothsayer, thanks for your interesting blogpost! I’ve enjoyed reading it! Personally, I have no doubt that there is the human capacity for prejudice and most of the time, our beliefs and actions do not match. So, I believe that no one is really immune to implicit biases. However, I do wonder if there is any research on the correlation between implicit bias and discriminatory behavior of a person? And whether this correlation is strong or weak? As I do not think that implicit biases are the main cause of real-world discrimination.


    1. Thank you for your comment,
      There is actualy a body of research on the topic of this correlation, proposing evidence that implicit biases are influential on discriminatory behaviour. They might not be the main cause, but they do play their role in enforcing discriminatory behaviour of a person.


  2. dear, sagidajan,
    it is always very informative to read your blogposts, so thank you very much for wirting about unordinary themes. According to this post, despite the fact that there are so many research done on the topic of impliicit biases and biases in general, don’t you think that it is not quite relevant to our context? Even though, Kazakhstan is a multilingual country with plurilingual individuals, the question of segregation according to race, gender, ethnicity, etc. do not arise in educational sphere. However, there are many other obstacles that hinder development of educational processes. I just wonder what if a brilliant mind such yours would pay more attention to current educational problems in our country)


    1. Thank you for your comment, mr. Uaxi)
      If I am not mistaken, your opinion as stated in your comment is “The question of segregation according to race, gender, ethnicity, etc. do not arise in educational sphere”.
      But I cannot agree with you here, while I do agree that education in Kazakhstan has many obstacles which might need all of our attention to overcome.
      However, I think that implicit bias on the basis of gender (such as “STEM is not for girls”) are present in our society and education as well as in other parts of the world. And there are possibly other stereotypes engrained into our subconscious thinking, and maybe taking a little action to overcome them can yield positive results, who knows))


  3. Dear Sagidee) thank you for interesting post. You raise always some intriguing topics. I enjoy reading them. For sure, people mostly tend to judge others due to some stereotypical opinions about the race, nationality, and even age. However, the reality could be totally different. People can completely change their prejudice about the person. It is very vital problem in educational field. By misleading prejudice about the student teachers can dimotivate students toward learning. Sometimes these discriminatory influence of the teachers can also bring more severe consequences than demotivation. Therefore, could you elaborate more about the specific methods to cope with implicit biases of the teachers? Thanks in advance.


    1. Thank you for your answer, dear Arailym.
      I have chosen this topic for my WA2 and there I have talked more about the ways in which implicit biases can lowered in educational settings. Some of the techniques include educating people on their implicit biases, perspective taking, diversity and teacher training. I believe that it should be integrated into university curriculum for future teachers worldwide.


  4. An excellent final post of the semester! (5/5) I can only make proofreading suggestions:

    1) But the ones most researched in connection with education are Race (Staats, 2016), Weight (Lynagh, Cliff, & Morgan, 2015), ______ Gender (Jackson, Hillard, & Schneider, 2013). [missing a word, and the words race, weight and gender shouldn’t be capitalized]

    2) As Staats (2014) emphasizes___ “raising awareness…. [commas needed before beginning a quote that is an independent clause. See how this one is different from the Greenwald & Krieger quote in the second para.?]


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